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Portugal: What’s New and What’s Next

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In Portugal, Saint Martin’s day celebrated on 11th of November is a time for families and friends to gather around the fire in “magustos” where they eat roasted chestnuts, drink fresh wine and share stories.

According to legend, Saint Martin gave away his coat to help the poor. As he faced a long ride in a cold weather, the dark clouds cleared away and the sun shone so intensely that the frost melted away. The wonder of a sunny break to chilly weather around Saint Martin’s Day is still called “Verão de São Martinho” (Saint Martin’s Summer) in his honor.

 What’s new?

Portugal wins the first Accessible Tourism Award

Portugal is the first country to win the “Accessible Tourism Destination” award, launched this year by the World Tourism Organization in Partnership with ONCE Foundation, that advocates for people with disabilities. According to the Portuguese Government, there are 90 million visitors with special mobility needs in Europe alone, so this distinction recognizes Portugal’s efforts to promote inclusion and accessibility.

New hotels

Palmares – Ocean Living & Golf is a new Algarve project with hotel and golf course. The Palmares project, by Kronos Homes, is an investment of 250 million euros in a complex overlooking Lagos Bay and the Alvor Estuary, with two five-star hotels and 460 properties for sale.

The Selina Group just opened the Hotel Selina in Milfontes, on the Alentejo Coast, with a total of 21 rooms. Located in the center of the village, the new hotel has an outdoor Jacuzzi, a 16-seat co-work space and a meeting room, rooftop with space for yoga and tai chi classes, a movie theater. Selina Milfontes also has a restaurant with capacity for 30 people. The investment was around 2 million euros.

The new Herdade dos Delgados Dark Sky View Hotel & Spa in Mourão (Alentejo) is a project with 24 rooms and three apartments, all with large balconies, to better appreciate the landscape and Lake Alqueva. The two-story building fits perfectly into the natural landscape of the cork forests and is not visible from the road leading to the hotel. It accesses walking paths and has a spa.

The Royal S. Paulo Hotel Resort is set in the historic town of Vila Viçosa (Alentejo) once a favorite spot to the last dynasty of Portuguese kings. The former São Paulo Convent in Vila Viçosa will be transformed into a luxury hotel in an investment of 20 million euros. The project wil focus on the rehabilitation of the Monastery built in 1590. The Luxury Resort and SPA with 70 suites will have an indoor and an outdoor pool, two elegant restaurants, gardens and villas.

 

Conímbriga Hotel do Paço is a hotel in a restored palace located near Coimbra (Centro de Portugal). This historic hotel has beautiful rooms and the extraordinary outdoor spaces, where the swimming pool and long lawns stand out. Inside is the Gavius ​​restaurant, launched in July and which has been delighting visitors. The hotel unit expects to open a new SPA soon.

The new Sul Villas & Spa hotel on São Miguel, Azores, has huge glass windows overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, making it the perfect entrance to an open space where white walls, green and blue landscapes are endless. Sul Villas & Spa opened on June 7, with 12 suites — all with sea views — have a simple and relaxed décor, ideal for those who want to completely disconnect. There are rooms with private pools or Jacuzzis with sea views.

Turim Santa Maria Hotel, a unit of the Turim Hotels Group, is the result of a renovation of the 1963 mid-century Hotel Santa Maria, which operated until 2007. The Turin Group’s new four-star, is set in Funchal’s historic center, a two-minute walk from the huge farmer’s market called Mercado dos Lavradores, offers 90 rooms from superior, executive, deluxe rooms to suites, all overlooking the Island landscapes and the sea.

The rooftop is home to Bistro 360º restaurant and Bar, as well as a pool, sun deck and lounge service.

 Elvas Plum Factory Museum

A visit to Elvas Plum Factory Museum is a journey back in time in the Alentejo.

Set in the former Frutas Doces [Sweet Fruits] factory, founded in 1919, you can see how the traditional manufacturing process works. The exhibition tells the history of this specialty. The confection began in the 16th century in the town’s convents, and later expanded to numerous artisanal factories where a large part of the population worked. By the late nineteenth century, about fifty companies employed hundreds of people and annually produced 60 tons of plum for export, particularly to England, Brazil, and the USA. This activity remained one of the most important economic activities in the region into the 1970s.

At the end, be sure to visit the store, where you can purchase the various products manufactured there and taste the authentic flavor of Elvas Plums.

Did you know?

A tour of the best regional food products in Portugal

 If we had to choose one truly remarkable thing about Portugal, it would be the cuisine. There are amazing natural landscapes and miles of beaches, not to mention the rich culture but Portugal has many delicacies that are only found in certain regions and they are worth a special trip.

We will leave wine out of this equation, but we will talk about something that pairs very well with it – cheese. There are many kinds of Portuguese cheeses; made from goat, cow or sheep milk. The cheese from the Serra da Estrela Mountains is one of the most famous ones, coming from the highest peaks in continental Portugal. Made from sheep’s milk, this is an artisanal cured cheese commonly known as Queijo da Serra that has a creamy texture when young and becomes harder as it ages. Another popular product is known as Queijo da Ilha and it comes from São Jorge Island in the Azores archipelago, standing in the Atlantic Ocean between the United States and Portugal. This is a semi-hard cheese made from cow ‘s milk.

And since in Portugal it is quite uncommon to eat cheese without eating bread, we have to mention bread from Mafra, a royal town, north of Lisbon, and bread from Alentejo, Portugal’s cork country. The first is a rustic loaf with a thin crumbly crust that was traditionally made using flower milled in windmills. The latter has a round shape and is used to make one of Alentejo’s main dishes, a bread stew called açorda. Also an Alentejo specialty is the cured ham, or Presunto de Barrancos, a DOP product named after the town where it comes from and that borders Spain. This cured ham is similar to the Iberian Pata Negra and has a distinctive flavor, not too salty and sometimes a little spicy.

Then there is a type of sausage that can be traced back to Jewish origins, Alheira de Mirandela, which comes from a small city in Northeastern Portugal – Mirandela. Unlike the majority of Portuguese sausages that are made with pork, this one is made with poultry mixed with bread and sometimes beef. Another traditional meat dish is leitão, the Portuguese word for a suckling pig, and there are two main hotspots where it comes from: Mealhada and Negrais. Folks will drive for miles on the weekend to feast on leitão.

But Portugal is not only about meat – there are also fruits that make the list of unique regional products. Pineapples from the Azores archipelago, that grow in hothouses, apples from Alcobaça, a Western city that is home to an imposing 13th century monastery, and a native Portuguese variety of pear called Pêra Rocha, also coming from the coastal part of the country.

 

In the Southern end, we highlight the sea salt from Tavira, a city in the Algarve region bordered by the Atlantic. This artisanal salt is also a DOP, harvested from the Ria Formosa Natural Park and unrefined, lending food an intense flavor. Tavira is also known for octopus fishing, and this ingredient is used in many refreshing summer dishes. Speaking of fish, black scabbard fish is the trademark dish of Madeira island, as this ugly-looking species is most commonly found in the deep depths of the Atlantic waters surrounding the Portuguese archipelago.

As you can see, from North to South that is a wide variety of hidden culinary gems based on regional ingredients. To taste all the regional flavors of Portugal just set out on a food tour!

5 Unique Portuguese experiences

 Portugal might be a small country, about the size of Maine, but it offers a big variety of food, artistic practices, music, and traditional crafts among many other things. We’ve put together a list of experiences that are bucket-list essentials of a trip to Portugal and that you won’t be able to get anywhere else.

 1. Blow glass in Marinha Grande

This town, in the Centro de Portugal region, is the heartland of the Portuguese glass industry and preserves the traditional craft of glassblowing, as well as the production of table glassware. Visit factory stores, workshops or the Museum of Glass to learn about the glassmaking process and in some places you can see an artisan blowing glass live.

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Marinha Grande is close to several Atlantic Portugal beaches, such as the world-famous surfing hotspot Nazaré.

2. Shop at Bolhão Market in Porto

This is a 19th century market set in the heart of downtown Porto where you can find fresh products, fish, meats and flowers. Mercado do Bolhão is a unique shopping experience because here the sellers, typically older women, have a distinctive way of marketing their products: by yelling a loud chant. They greet customers with puns or funny remarks and the whole atmosphere is warm and exuberant, true to Portuguese Northern character. It has to be on your bucket list!
3. Learn how to make traditional Arraiolos carpets

Arraiolos is a charming town in Alentejo topped by a medieval castle has a long tradition of embroidery and tapestry rugs, admired by many for their colorful floral designs. Today there are still workshops where these carpets are handmade. You surely won’t come out of there with a finished carpet, but you will appreciate the craftsmanship put into this ancient art. This is a mandatory stop on any trip to the Alentejo, the Portuguese region famed for great wines, delicious food and beautiful natural landscapes of endless rolling plains and cork oak groves.

 4. Listen to a serenade in Coimbra

Coimbra is home to the oldest University in Portugal, established in 1290, and the birthplace of the student fado, a variant of Portuguese fado known as the song of Coimbra. Fado serenades are quite common in the city, especially around graduation season, when groups of students dressed in their traditional black college gowns gather on the streets and sing, sometimes dedicating a romantic fado to a special person in the crowd. When visiting Coimbra, stop by the local fado clubs, where you can have a drink and listen – Fado ao Centro or A Capella do Fado at night and listen to one of these moving live performances.

5. Take a downhill wicker toboggan on Madeira

Madeira is a very mountainous semi-tropical Portuguese island and wicker toboggans appeared around the 1850s as a faster means of transportation from the hills to the lower settlements, like the capital Funchal. Although today toboggans are not needed anymore, they remain a popular and fun way to explore Madeira’s slopes and can reach a speed of almost 30 mph. Toboggan ride operators on Madeira provide the old-timey traditional experience and the two drivers that steer the cart are dressed in all-white cotton clothes and straw hats.

Contacts:

www.VisitPortugal.com

New York Jewish Travel Guide

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